Local News

Story published: 02-13-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Doe Mountain Board discusses legal issues, funding, polices, user fees, etc.

By Jonathan Pleasant

With just two weeks between their last two meetings, the Doe Mountain Recreation Board of Authority has finally begun to get some of the preliminary work out of the way and is getting down to issues that will ultimately change the future of the mountain. Unfortunately, although the board was created by specific legislation just for this purpose, a lack of basic funding has also led to the lack of an attorney and a long list of legal issues.

Vice-Chairman Richard Strang who heads up the administration committee presented a list of these issues to the board along with the committee’s efforts to get some assistance. However, even after being in contact with several departments in the state, Strang was left with more questions than answers.

Issues ranged from personal liability concerns for board members to questions about budgeting and collecting fees. Because the board of authority is an independent element of the state government, getting legal aid has proven problematic so far, with the state’s attorney general’s office suggesting that the board hire its own private attorney. While most members agreed that this would be the best route, a lack of current funding presents a huge challenge.  Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter has already been in contact with members of the legislation in the hopes that the situation can be rectified, but with several items already underway, securing legal assistance will only become more important.

One of the few issues that did receive a positive confirmation was a question of whether committee meetings must also be advertised and posted along with the full board meeting each month. After sending this question to the state office of open records it was confirmed that committee meetings must fulfill the same requirements as the main meeting. However, secretary Gabby Lynch did report that it would be possible to conduct the meetings over the phone through a conference line if necessary.

Utilizing a toll free number that could be posted, the conference call would still meet all the requirements for an open meeting, allowing the public to listen in and actually make comments at designated times. Because of the nature of the board, where many members live in Johnson County while others are as far away as Knoxville or even Nashville, conference calls may become a preferred method for some committees, although Lynch did stress that many would still be held in the county itself.

Dr. Strang also presented the board with a proposed policy concerning public comments at the meeting. Like many of the open meetings in the area, the policy calls for a sign up sheet where those wishing to speak would list their names, a contact number, and a short description of what they intend to speak about. Public comments would be limited in time, and in cases where a group comes forward to address a single issue a representative may be asked to speak for them. Having presented the policy at the last meeting, the issue came to a vote this month with a few slight changes. Ray Stout made the motion to accept the altered policy with Frank Arnold seconding. The motion passed unanimously.

Other opening business included a discussion of the board’s website, currently found at www.doemountain.org. While this early site is still under construction, secretary Lynch did inform that meeting information was being posted along with the approved minutes from past meetings. Lynch went on to say that she had been working with Mayor Potter to look at a potential candidate from Johnson County who has offered his website building services pro bono. With a long list of credentials and 17 years experience, along with a passion for outdoor recreation, Tim Horne clearly fit the boards needs concerning the site. As a result TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill made the motion to accept Horne’s proposal to work on the site as long as necessary pending an agreement could be drawn up by an attorney.

Although the board doesn’t currently have the funding, Circuit Court Clerk Carolyn Wilson Hawkins voiced her confidence in finding an attorney that would be willing to put together an agreement, also working on a pro bono basis. With Commissioner Jerry Grindstaff seconding the motion, the issue was approved by the full board.

Mayor Potter announced that the art contest being held at the Johnson County Middle and High Schools is going well despite the recent weather closing the schools and forcing an extension of the contest’s deadline. Having spoken with the sponsoring art teachers, Potter confirmed that more than a dozen entries had already been submitted, with the purpose of creating a logo, mascot, and seal for Doe Mountain. The board will review the entries, hopefully at the next meeting, to decide upon a winner.

            Reports from the board’s six standing committees took up much of the remainder of the meeting. Having met fully for the first time the first business of most of the committees was electing officers, which were reported to secretary Lynch at the full meeting. A few new members were added to some committees including a nomination from Frank Arnold for Iron Mountain Inn’s Vicky Woods. Lynch also made an announcement that all of the committees were either working on or finalizing their mission statements.

        For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.